Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Full Beal's, With the Point

Just back from a nice ride up to Beal`s Point at Folsom Lake. I took the camera and left the Garmin at home, so I have some nice pics, but no telemetry to fret over. It was a nice change to just go have fun and endulge in some speed, damned the HR and fatigue. Although I think I was just using a strong moment in the ride, I don't really know, don't really cared, and enjoyed the freedom to not worry about it, but just enjoy the cold dense air in my lungs, wind in my face and pavement flashing by.

A note on that. Your pancreas doesn't make insulin at the same rate all the time, even when you are going flat out. It makes insulin on a 6-minute cycle. My take on this is your body pings, somewhat like a submarine. It pumps out a lot of insulin, floods your blood with the stuff, and then monitors how fast it gets used up, and/or how much blood glucose is left at the end of 6 minutes. It then adjusts the quantity in the next 6-minute dose accordingly.

Since insulin is a hormone which dramatically increases the rate at which your muscles (and adipose tissue if at rest) can absorb glucose, you get little spurts and sags when you ride. One of the very real advantages of riding in groups is you can make good use of individual rider's surges to pull others in sag mode.

Time to fetch my baked potato out of the microwave, mash it up with canola oil and sour cream, and get some glucose into those hungry muscles so they don't start chewing on themselves. With a glycemic index of 105 potatoes are the bees knees for recovery carbs. I like mine with 32 oz of skim milk. Really hits the spot!

I hope you enjoy the pics. They almost do the scenery justice. The snow in the Sierras in the background will be water in the lake by May or June.

Footwarmer Feedback

Well, as usually happens, I dragged a toe riding last week, so I got out the duct tape and 'armored' the toe box area of the shoe. About 5-6" wrapped across the toe area, applied so the tape tapered downward towards the sole at both ends, worked quite well. I snipped some slits in the tape at 1" intervals on the bottom side so it would wrap/fold around the toe nicely, and the effect is very pleasing. This basically mimics the rubber reinforcement in the toe box area of any tennis shoe.

I rode with this some 40 miles to my HammerinWheels birthday party on Saturday and got a lot of feedback. Some seem to think it looks 'dorky', so if that's your take, just buy some cheap Lycra shoe covers to make it all look pretty. You will give up the high viz property of the outer reflective surface, but that may be a good trade-off to some.

The reflective side that matters is the side that faces inward, and it will be just as wind and waterproof as ever, so no issues. The versatility of this system is one of its great strengths. If it were thicker or heavier, that wouldn't be true, but as it is, it can be the perfect base layer for those riding in really COLD weather.

I checked, and you can buy Thinsulate in small quantities online. I will find a link and post it when I get time. Btw, if you want to save gas, and make your car heater and AC much more effective, put this stuff between the door panel and door gasket. It also kills a ton of road noise. Time to head out the door and 'get some' right now.

Merry Christmas to you all, and thank you for all the wonderful feedback over the last year. All the best to you and yours.


Tuesday, December 15, 2009

World's Cheapest, Lightest, Best Foot Warmer

This is so effective it's just stupid. Almost weightless, costless and super-tough, it works well alone or under booties. In thinking about materials used in booties I have to say, they are very poorly chosen. Neoprene? Are you kidding me? Very heavy, not very windproof, and because of the density of rubber, a poor insulator.

Once wet, neoprene is as cold as cotton. Worse, it stays wet and conducts, evaporates and convects your feet into icicles. (It takes at least 8hrs to dry a 7mm wetsuit on a warm day) It has an R value ~ 0.5 per inch of thickness. Thinsulate under this stuff would be pretty good, which is why it's the material of choice for SCUBA dry-suits.

Here's a table I found for the R value of Thinsulate Ultra. As you can see, it would take over 5 inches of neoprene to match Ultra 200's R value. Need I say more about how poorly the industry is being served by its product designers? (the correct thickness of US150 is .64")

I would recommend a good wool knee-sock to wick the moisture up out of the shoe. There is plenty of airflow, even under tights, to accomplish this. They also do a great job of keeping your calves warm - especially the snowboarding kind with extra padding in the back for heel-side pressures.

PS: I was very surprised that a Google search for 'R-Value' turned up this blog post first and foremost. Given this I was a little uncomfortable with my source for this info, so took it upon myself to do a few hours of research. I found two sources I found credible,  cited at the bottom of this Excel spreadsheet. The first was from an educational physics page, and the second was a Wikipedia page on R-Values. As you can see, I looked for materials the two tables had in common and then tried to come up with a conversion factor.

I ended up favoring foam board as reference materials, as they too are purposely designed to insulate. Of interest, felt, though heavier, would be a good alternative to Thinsulate. Please note, the table R-Values are for 1" thicknesses, while the R-Value for Thinsulate is for the material's stated thickness. At the end of the day, it looks like it would take 3-6" of neoprene to match the insulation provided by the best Thinsulate. (A layer of US100 and one of  US150 is ~ 1" and R 3.32)

The materials` weights are wildly out of proportion to each other. It should also be noted that these values are for conduction losses only, which assumes they are in an air-tight environment and all radiant losses have been eliminated. (both good assumptions under SpaceBlanket, but uncovered, far, far from bicycle shoe cover conditions)

Monday, December 14, 2009

Sneaking in a Ride

I finally got out the door today, after taping some SpaceBlanket stuff over my shoes to keep the wind out and the heat in, gathering up all of my cold-weather gear, long-fingered gloves and such, and finding my Gatorade back. It was mostly cloudy, but not that all-day bone-chilling cold kind of day. In fact, it felt pretty warm, around 50 I think, and when the sun shone through it was gorgeous. My feet were toasty warm, and being warm and comfortable is a sure way to find the joy in a sunny day.

It wasn't a long ride. I didn't want to get caught too far from home if the sky opened up, and it was the first time out on a real ride with my new back wheel, so I wanted to be a bit cautious. About that. I have a very serious suggestion for anyone contemplating buying a new bike. Buy some good custom-built wheels for your old ride first - or if not that, put your old wheels on any new bike you are thinking of buying and go for a ride. Most of the difference in ride quality between a $2,000 msrp bike and a $5,000 bike is the wheels. Really. No bull. It's just amazing.

The difference in ride quality between my old and new rear wheel is more than the change from my steel bike to my carbon one. I can't even feel the roughness of the road now except for my POS radially spoked front wheel. It's going to get replaced as soon as I get through Christmas. If the hub were better quality I would just re-lace the wheel with DT Revolution spokes and ride on, but with only 20 spoke drillings, there just isn't much that can be done with them.

The rear wheel performed better than even I had expected on the return home today. There is a sharp left turn at the bottom of a hill where the asphalt is really torn up and wrinkled. I normally have to slow down to 10-12 mph to take the turn, and then add a lot of power to climb back up the hill to the left. I was a bit cautious today, but I carried 15-18 mph into the turn and knew immediately I could have carried far more speed into it if the front wheel had been more compliant. I cannot feel any harshness at all coming from the rear wheel. Only the front.

The freewheel hub's ratchet is almost silent. No one will ever know when I am tired and coasting. I'm the stealth rider now! The bluish tint on the Ultegra hub is very nice in outdoor light too. I am just chomping at the bit to get the front one ordered now. I will get it with the Mavic's CD treatment to reduce rim wear on the braking surface up front, as the front wheel takes 4-5X the braking wear as the rear. The micro machining on the new rear rim was very sticky, completely homogeneous, and that was in wet, sandy conditions. Very impressive.

I only wish I had bought custom wheels this spring. It would have made the training miles so much easier.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Pretty New Wheel

Mavic Open Pro black rims with double eyelets for maximum strength
DT Swiss Revolution 14/17 super-butted stainless spokes
Lightweight silver alloy nipples
Ultegra 6700 rear hub with annular contact bearings, labyrinth seals, and steel freehub body
Handmade in Colorado by Santa's mountain-top elves

The final effect. A very handsome wheel that is ~ 5 times as durable. The hub is a bit under-par relative to the rest of the wheel, but the steel freewheel hub is bomb-proof and the new seals and bearings are excellent. The freehub ratchet is nearly silent, and extremely smooth. The color is gunmetal grey - a kind of pale bluish tint grey. Very nice on a blue bike!

Invisible butting on the DT Swiss Revolution, as compared with the abrupt butting on my mtn bike wheels. Note too the ratty and ripped rim joint on my mtn bike wheel. None of that on the Mavic Open Pros.

Note how the 3-cross pattern has the spokes bending across each other for mutual lateral support. The super-butted 14/17 spokes are 17 gauge everywhere but the first 10mm at the hub, and the last 10mm at the threads. They are about half the weight of a straight 14 gauge spoke, and support high spoke tensions without breaking for a super-responsive, resilient wheel, with a buttery ride. They cheat the wind like a bladed spoke, but without the cross-wind problems.

Gunmetal grey hub with steel freehub body. Mavic Open Pros come with a halographic decal indicating very clearly the spoke count, so you don't have to count. In adidtion, Colorado Cyclist puts a special decal on their hand-built wheels. These are nice touches you expect when paying for custom wheels. Oddly, the total price was only ~ $200. Very reasonable for what you get.

Notice how the eyelets support the pull of the spokes on both the surfaces of the rim? These are called double eyelets, and the Open Pro is one of very few rims to offer this. It makes the spokes almost impossible to pull out. With the high-elasticity of 14/17 butted spokes, and 32 of them, I'm assured these never will. The rim is super-light too. Only 425 grams. Riders over 200 lbs should opt for 36 spokes, while riders under 150 lbs should use 28.

 A final glamor shot
 Update 1/10/2010
It appears that the Mavic website is very misleading about the color of the CD and Ceramic rims. The Open Pro CD is a bit heavier, but the trade-off is the braking surface is thicker and anodized to make it harder, and therefore, longer lasting. While this is not a big deal, given the small amount of wear the rear braking surface gets relative to the front wheel's, I'm now faced with an awkward choice between getting a more durable braking surface for the front wheel, or having the two wheels match. I would recommend getting Open Pro CD rims front and back for maximum durability.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

R&R - ing a Gear Cassette

I have been meaning to put this how-to up as a video for some time, but never wanted to take the hour or so it takes to get 4-5 takes down when doing this chore. I am usually rushing to get the cassette cleaned for a ride the next morning and it's late at night.

This time I was moving the cassette to a new wheel, so I took the time to do it a few times while recording. Sorry about the mumbling under my breath while my thoughts try to tunnel their way to the surface. You wouldn't believe how many things were competing to be said as I was wrenching away.

If you want to change your gearing, just buy a cassette and then follow these two procedures to remove your old cassette and mount the new one. I would recommend that you clean these periodically, and before storage, in a 50:50 solution of distilled water and Simple Green. A good, flat bristle toothbrush can be a big help with a dirty cassette. When storing, rub dry with a clean and dry terry rag, then oil lightly with Pedro's chain lube.

Use a short piece of PVC pipe and some zip ties to hold the pieces together in order and place the assembled cassette in a zip-lock bag in a box with all of your other cassettes. It is GREAT to have your whole quiver of arrows ready at hand when the need arises for special gearing.


Taking it apart...

Putting it back together.

This is a picture of an alloy freewheel hub where large steel cogs, which were pinned together, but without an actual spider, nearly tore through their splines. This is my old wheel, and this damage was all done on a single climb in one afternoon.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Colorado Cyclist

I just got an email notification from UPS that my CUSTOM BUILT wheel has shipped from Colorado Cyclist already! This came only 26 hours after they received my order. Now THAT's what I'm talking about when I say "customer service".

 This message was sent to you at the request of COLORADO CYCLIST to notify you that the electronic shipment information below has been transmitted to UPS. The physical package(s) may or may not have actually been tendered to UPS for shipment. To verify the actual transit status of your shipment, click on the tracking link below or contact COLORADO CYCLIST directly.

Wow, these guys are starting out strong. What a huge contrast to Cambria. I'm a little worried that the DT Swiss Revolution spokes need a lot of TLC (think time) to build with, but maybe they build them in batches and had a few left? I will reserve judgment until I get them here safe and sound, but this is a very impressive start.

I also want to give a big shout out to a new book "Fixed" I was sent through the Vines program to review. I was asked to join Vines because my reviews there were highly rated. It's kind of a cool program where you get to pick stuff they send you to keep. You just have to review it. I get a lot of 'beta' books where I feel I am doing the job of an editor somewhere in NY, NY, so I have been put off a bit with the whole program, but this book is excellent, and makes up for all those nights and weekends slogging through amateurish crap.

The book is written by a graphic designer and a professional writer, both of whom are avid cyclists. The pictures are plentiful and, in many cases, rare. The text is very well written and comprises a treasure trove of cycling history. I hope these guys come out with a follow-up book called "Geared" so that the two books will comprise an excellent history of the sport in two beautifully illustrated books.

This is the perfect Christmas gift for anyone who owns a pair of cycling shoes - or an impressionable mind that you hope someday will. It was reading a book exactly like this that first got me interested in bike racing as a sport.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Cambria Blows It Again

I called Cambria's Pasa Robles store yesterday and asked if they had the Aksium wheels I was looking for, as I am planning a trip to Barstow this weekend or next and thought it a short detour - shorter than a drive to Santa Rosa. I also emailed them, and heard nothing at all from them by either medium.

Late this afternoon I called the Santa Rosa store back and they still had a record of my order, had my contact info, but still no product. There was one change though, the price on the rear wheel was $140, not $110 like the front. Bottom line, they are no cheaper than TotalCycles, and that's before shipping and tax.

Pondering my dilemma, I started looking for a different solution. There were a few things that haunted me. In no particular order, they were as follows...

  • When I rebuilt my old bike for Aaron, I noticed that the wheels had a LOT of spokes, 36, laced 3 crossed in the back, and 32 in the front laced 2 crossed, and with double-butted spokes. These wheels I had custom built by Performance Bike Shop in NC back in the mid-80's and I loved their soft supple ride and bombproof performance. I had them built after splitting a 6" section out of my back wheel spanning 3 spoke holes while touring. I hate to repeat the mistakes of my own history.
  • My friend, and bike mechanic, Bruce, gave me a good tutorial on bike wheels when I first detected my broken wheel. There were 2 things he stressed. At my weight, using at least 32 spokes and a rim with double eyelets that allow the spokes to pull on both the inside surface (where all rims support spoke pressure) and on the mid-channel cross-member that resists the clamping force of braking
  • Reviews of the Aksium, and many other low spoke-count wheels seemed to fall into two distinct categories, love them or hate them, with nothing in-between. The deciding factor seemed to be rider weight. I'm on the 'hate-em" side of that equation. 
  • My current rear wheel has 24 spokes, the same spoke count as the Aksium. That seems like a warning shot across the bow, right? 
  • My old hub is too cheesy to rebuild, so no point rebuilding the current wheel with a great rim and spokes. Too much like building an apple around a worm.
  • My front wheel is in good condition, and since I ride so much of the time in aerobars, (which DO put a lot more weight on the front wheel) resting my elbows in nice thick pads that are torsioned with a  3" lever arm twisting against a 1" thin-walled aluminum tube that is clamped to handlebars attached to a 120mm stem and a carbon fork with Zerts silicon dampers, it's pretty hard to take a sharp blow to the front wheel. There's just way too much give in the system, even if I don't get down to the hoods or drops before the really rough stuff rolls under me.
  • My Roubaix is a plush bike, and those are all made to put the rider in an upright position (which I have done everything to remedy) due to frame geometry, which puts an inordinate amount of weight on the rear wheel. 
A lot to chew on, I know.

I spent most of the afternoon online looking for answers and options. I am really frustrated that Cambria are such clueless idiots on the phone - about products, customer support, pricing, etc. You just have zero confidence you aren't talking to some clueless kid breathless from little league hanging out waiting for his dad to come pick him up from his after-school bike shop gig.

At a minimum they can't get their story straight on price, and I have wasted 10 days sitting around with my thumb up my butt while they may or may not have done anything to satisfy their customer. I had a very similar experience with Cambria when ordering parts for my mtn bike rebuild early this spring. The last straw was calling their online store about a "Hot Deals" special on some Easton wheels only to be told they don't have any left, so sorry, scheduled for deletion real-soon-now, blah, blah, blah, ad-naseum. I think it's time to write these bozos off my contact list and move on.

I am currently looking at replacing just the rear wheel with a custom-built wheel from either Excel or Colorado Cyclist. Both builds feature Shimano Ultegra hubs, 32 double-butted Swiss DT spokes, and Mavic Open Pro CD rims.

The CD treatment is a process for hardening the braking surface for longer life - something I hope to make use of with these wheels. It seems to be somewhat controversial. My decision will come down to price, tax, and Ultegra 6700 vs Ultegra 6600 hubs. The cost will be $200- $225, depending on options. Next spring I will reevaluate my wheels with the intent of getting a matching front wheel using the same technology.

No road trip, and still too sick to make one anyway, but I am well enough to lift my plastic out of my wallet and MagicJack my way through some pointed questions before placing an order. Mostly these will be about the Ultegra hubs, freewheel bodies, new DT Swiss Revolution spokes, and the CD treatment on the Open Pro rims.

If you're getting the feeling I'm not an impulse buyer, you're right. Soak time is always an aid in making a high quality decision. I like my new approach - focusing exclusively on the broken wheel - better. Maybe Cambria's ineptness will end up being for the best. Stay tuned. I have learned a TON about wheels, and will try to share some of that with my readers.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Road Trip!

Well, after a lot of research, and soul searching, I found a solution to my broken wheel. I am getting a pair of 2010 Mavic Aksium (axiom) wheels from Cambria, and will be driving up to Santa Rosa to pick them up as I just can't see paying $50 shipping for $250 wheels. They reassured me the price in the store for the pair of wheels will be $220 and tax, so it's worth the drive.

Mavic has taken a lot of weight out of these wheels over the last 2 years - at least 200 grams - there are no bendy J-hook spokes, and those straight spokes are bladed aero spokes. These entry level Mavic wheels are now within 25 grams of the much more expensive Ksyrium Equipe, so Mavic is responding to the world-wide recession by offering riders a very good wheel at a great price.

I have some concerns about durability due to my "185 lb" weight (that's my story and I sitting on it), but online reviews report these wheels to be pretty bomb-proof. If I were hard on my gear I  wouldn't risk it, but I'm not, so this will be a pretty big upgrade from the $40 Alex wheels the bike came with. (it seems like the more decals, the cheaper the wheel)

In the meantime I intend to ride my mtn bike, which is long overdue for a good outing. Unfortunately, I sprained my left ankle, which, in conjunction with a (nicely healing) right calf tear has me picking my day rather carefully.

I missed a great mud-fest on Friday out at Lake Natoma led by my friend Marsh Wildman, but that left ankle I almost ripped off my leg sticking the nose of my snowboard at ~ 35mph 2 yrs ago, and with the weather adding to the misery index, it really hurt on Friday.

Speaking of the calf, it seems to be getting stronger still, and the ankle sprain has helped in that I no longer am favoring it. I now stand on my tip toes to get things like canned pumpkin for Thanksgiving down from the top shelf in the kitchen. I'd be lying though if I said I wasn't getting frustrated by the lack of riding. I think it's time to head to the gym and get some core in. Cheers!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Dead Weels A'rollin

I went out the door for a quick ride Thursday, noticing at the last moment how little time I had left before sundown. Intending to head off to Beal's Point, my bike kind of went right instead of left at the Sunrise 'Y' , so I ended up heading downstream to William Pond Park. It was a nice day with a 5-7 mph headwind and I picked up a trailer somewhere around Hagen Park.

I felt slow and sluggish, so when he passed me I let him go a bit and then realized he'd pretty much spent himself getting around me, so I bridged up and rode his wheel for awhile. We ended up riding up over the WBP bridge side by side carrying on a nice conversation.

I was feeling a lot better by then - all the rust was falling off and I had some snap in my legs - so I decided to head downstream to CSUS. Doug bailed about a mile down from WBP, but I put in a plug for HammerinWheels and hope to see him again on a club ride.

I picked up the pace, hunkered down in the aeorbars, and tried hard to slice through the the wind while keeping the sweat from dripping off the tip of my helmet and spattering all over my glasses. I was blowing hard as I rode up the long ramp to the Guy West Bridge at CSUS. Amazing how much of a lather I can work up in 60 degree weather at 20 mph.

Eager to trade in the headwind for a tailwind, I hit the Garmin's lap button and pushed off 5 minutes later. I set a pretty solid 22-23mph pace and passed a half-dozen riders along the way. As usual, I got no challenges along this section, so I had to focus on my Garmin and kept pushing myself till my HR monitor would alarm and then back off after a minute or two.

After passing a fast commuter with rear panniers filled, I put on a sprint to keep him off my wheel. No point pulling the kitchen sink. Just as my HR alarm settled back down I ran up onto the back of the mythical Park Ranger SUV (it exists, really, I swear!) doing a very proper 15 mph - the legal speed limit on the ARPT.

If anybody actually observed that speed limit the bike trail wouldn't be much use to anyone, but there he was, stuck in my face anyway. I should have peeled off the trail for surface streets at the edge of the WBP park, or at least hit the lap button, but as it was I ended up crawling along behind him and ruined my average.

Once home I found I had spent about 50% of the ride in Zone 5 - low Zone 5, fortunately. I often ride the hardest going downhill or with the wind at my back. Speed begets speed.

Last night I was cleaning and prepping my bike for a ride tomorrow from Auburn to Foresthill - a nice climbing route - and decided to finally Scotchbrite my rear wheel's braking surface clean to get the undulation out of the rear brake. I was shocked to discover a spoke breaking out through the rim, splitting it in the process.

This is not a welcome expense, with winter clothes and Christmas to budget for, but at least I didn't end up sprawled all over the road coming down a 10% grade at 50 mph. Besides, I have a zero-guilt reason now to finally put some good wheels on the bike. They have always been the weak link on my Roubaix.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Beal's Boogie

I've been burning the candle at both ends all week, and yesterday it caught up with me. I slept most of the day, woke up for a few hours and went to bed early, hoping to wake up refreshed today. It was cold, so I baked a half-dozen potatoes and ate one before heading off to bed for the night. Good carbs for making liver glycogen.

I blew off a great club ride, as it was clear I needed to sleep in today, and because the club ride wasn't very tough. At 29 miles and 1,200 ft of climbing, it was almost flat. I decided to sleep in, wait till it warmed up a bit and just head up to Beal's Pt at Lake Folsom this afternoon.

It's been awhile since I've been up there, and especially, using my 'standard' route, so I was surprised I was able to do the ride at a good pace. It took me 1:53 minutes to do the 32 miles and ~ 2,400 ft of climbing. I put on a short sleeve jersey, wind vest, and balaclava at Beals for the fast descent - in addition to leg warmers I wore for the entire trip. It's getting cold out there again.

I loved the dense air, and could tell it in my recovery time after pushing hard into Zone 5, but it will make for cold mornings. It's supposed to get down to 37 degrees here tonight.

The calf rehab continues to go well, although it was very close to cramping up on me climbing up the Hazel Ave corkscrew up onto the bridge. It's about a 30% grade, so standing and hammering it is about the only option. Another 10 ft and I would have been in trouble. I nursed the calf home though, and hope it will respond well to the exercise as it has been doing right along.

All in all it was a great ride and great weather for it. I even got a little racing in coming down from Beal's and all the way back to the turn-off for Main St after Negro Bar. He dropped me hard on that 6% hill, as I anticipated, but I reeled him in again after a mile or so. Unfortunately I had to kill most of my speed to dodge some peds at Negro Bar, so I was chasing him down again when he turned off the trail.

Good times!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

1st Road Ride

I met up with 20 or so riders from my HammerinWheels group for a 31 mile road ride on Halloween morning, and the weather was just perfect for the 9:00 AM start and noon-ish finish. I got there a little early and had time to catch up with a few of the riders I hadn't seen in awhile.

FF&FF crew getting their Halloween on!

While we were forming up, and listening to our ride leader give instructions, my other bike group, Feisty Fun & Frisky Fitness showed up with a small group of fast riders to do a ride of their own. Later, at the end of the ride our mtb HammerinWheels group showed up with 3 dozen riders for a nice mtb ride along Folsom Lake at Granite Bay. It really was just the perfect day for a bicycle ride!

Lourdes giving instructions - back from the chiropractor and bike shop after her fall on Wednesday

The first part of the ride was fairly flat, and ended with a long stay at a coffee shop and nursery where, along with our 23 bikes, there were bikes from 3-4 other groups. I looked around the parking lot and realized there were $100k in bikes gracing the parking lot. The sun was out in force as we filled the back patio while munching on pastries and sipping excellent coffee.

I was out front watching the bikes with a few others of our group, when a couple came out with a very friendly dog. I just couldn't help myself, so I took a knee (the calf was really burning after that) and was rewarded by a few friendly licks. I had a great chat with the owners while Lourdes snapped this pic, and I remembered how much I missed my Sheltie dogs.

Puppy love

With my right leg folded under me I could feel the lump that runs across the width of my calf where I tore it, and it did complain a bit by the end, but also seemed to stretch it out nicely.

D31 Granite Bay to Indian Hill loop -REAL Slow Poke's Edition

As you can see from the ride profile below, there is a substantial three mile climb of about 7% going up Indian Hill. We stopped for a breather at Flyers gas station in Newcastle for a few minutes before climbing it, and starting out after the break my calf was hurting, so I resolved to take it easy up the climb.

That lasted until about half way up the hill, when a group of 8-10 riders passed our slower group up front. I protested that I had just been 'chicked', and hit the gas. I jumped on the back and proceeded to reel them in, one by one. Even limits have their limits!

I had tried to chase down my friend Fred on the major climb of the first leg of this ride, hadn't made much progress, and didn't make much progress on this climb until the grade flattened out towards the top. He's lost at least 35lbs this year, and I had gained about 8lbs over the 6 weeks off the bike healing up. It made for a great challenge though. I really enjoyed it.

Fred had trouble with his coffee, but he's an excellent ride leader and a good friend. Kudos on the -35lbs dude!

By this time I was at the front of the pack with 4-5 other riders and we started down the back side of Indian Hill and onto a long shallow decline on Auburn Folsom Rd - which has excellent surface and nice shoulders. Have I mentioned I go downhill like a rocket? :D I passed all but one rider just working my tuck while they pedaled away. I took great delight in passing Fred, pedaling like mad while I cruised by in a tight tuck. We jockeyed back and forth a bit on some rollers before I had to brake hard for a light.

The light changed just as I was coming to a stop, so with Fred 50 ft behind me, I spun through the gears until my Garmin said 41mph - which I later confirmed meant I was turning 135 rpms. Man, that HURT! I have been having cadence issues since returning from the calf injury, and that high rotation speed really hurt. I think it did me a lot of good though, as my cadence came a lot easier the rest of the ride home.

Tim, a big rider new to me, was out front, and I tucked in behind and coasted a good part of the way, moving off to one side or the other to slow down and keeping a clear view of the road ahead while down in the aerobars, careful not to risk a collision with his back wheel as there are no brakes on the aerobars.

The "Timinator" at Flyers, before the big climb

We had a blast, Tim out front, a rider loosely behind me (who I thought was Fred until we got back to the parking lot) blasting downhill at 21-25 mph with spikes above 30. When the road got technical I moved my hands to the drops, worked the gears, and stayed vigilant, but mostly I focused on being nice and smooth and maintaining a nice 3-5ft gap. One of the hidden advantages of aerobars is how little work you add for the guy you're drafting off of. I don't think Tim could even tell whether I was tucked in tight or out wide 5 feet back.

One of the riders asked me how long we had been waiting when the main group arrived. I think it was 21 minutes. Whatever it was I thoroughly enjoyed that last 9 miles at a blistering pace on very smooth surface. I am also very happy with my progress in rehabilitating my calf tear - I really didn't know what to expect - and was happy I not only completed the ride, but at the front of the pack.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Hill Repeats

Kevin and I at the top of Pennsylvania Hill

A big thanks to my real-time and BlogSpot friend Lourdes for inviting along on what was likely the last of her hill repeat rides Wednesday night. I was running a little late on laundry (hey, sometimes life calls :D) so took a shortcut to the start, but got there early and decided to ride back towards the rest of the group rather than sit and wait.

Me, Lourdes and Kevin, taking a break to catch our breath moments before her scary fall

I met Kevin and Chris about half way in their direction, turned around and rode to the base of the Pennsylvania hill with them. The rest of the group was not far behind. It was really nice seeing my buds and budettes again. I did have one little twitch in my calf getting there, where the muscle fiber seemed to tear loose from the collagen "scaffolding", kind of a sick feeling, but getting used to it now. No harm, no foul. It seems to be part of the healing process.

I did the first 3 hill repeats without a break, catching and passing the early group with the tight rotation, and getting my HR up there steadily as the extra effort and minimal recovery time kicked in. I took a long break before heading up for repeat #4 to catch my breath, and found it hard to stay in the saddle at the short 15% grade section. My calf felt weak standing too, but I could tell my cardio wasn't up to par and that seemed to be a bigger limitation than my calf.

We headed up the hill on what was #5 for me, regrouped at the top, and took some pictures. (I had brought my camera and then forgot all about it, so thanks to Lourdes and Fred for the pics) before heading back down in a loose group.

I got through all the gears, shifting from low gears to high, slowed for the small cross street, and looked around the curve for other riders. Intending to pass a couple of riders (I go downhills like a rocket sled) I was about abreast of them when I looked up and saw two drivers stopped, talking to each other, blocking the entire road - except for the 4 ft or so between.

I didn't know exactly where my riding partners were at that instant, but was pretty sure slamming on the brakes would have them piling into me, so I hit the brakes as hard as I could, pushed my weight back, and squirted between the two parked cars.

I heard a scream and then a bike crash into the road, and as I feared, my friend Lourdes had crashed hard. We were almost abreast when I'd first spotted the cars, and assumed she had realized a split second too late that going down a 8-10% grade there wasn't enough room to stop. As I turned around and came back up the hill I was relieved to see her sitting up, conscious and apparently, lucid.

She seems to have locked her front wheel and high-sided right over the handlebars. I think she was really lucky, but happily so. A steep downslope can often blunt the effects of such a fall as the road drops away from under the rider. In any case, one of the new riders, Andy, and I did some wrenching on Lourdes bike while Kevin and Sharel took care of her. We rode gingerly to the bottom of the hill, regrouped with the rest of the riders, and headed home.

Lourdes immediately started to complain of shoulder pain, and that was worrisome, but after a thorough exam from her chiropractor this morning she reported only bruising and road rash. Whew... that was a close one, and more than a bit scary.

I wanted to hammer a bit on the ride home, and soon found myself well ahead of the pack, with Andy on my wheel or next to me. We had a nice chat and I found out he's almost my neighbor. We waited up for the rest of the group at William Pond Pk, said our good-byes and then rode home together - except for the last few blocks. About 22 miles and 2,000 ft on the Garmin.

We've had a rash of crashes now in the last 2 weeks, and it reminded me that statistically you are about 15X as likely to have an accident after daylight savings time ends than after it begins. I'm going riding again tomorrow, a nice slow 31 miler with many of the same riders, and will remind myself to slow down on the hills a little. Mostly though, it was nice to be able to ride with my friends and not have to beg off or quit early. Having just gotten through a long rehab, I am not wanting to repeat the experience anytime soon.

It's so pretty out there with the fall foliage and crisp air, I want to enjoy it.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Torn From My Sport

Playing beach volleyball on a poorly maintained sand court, which was not rototilled properly, I tore my calf muscle digging for a ball last month. About 2-3 inches under the surface of the sand the soft sand gave way to something as hard as concrete. I also broke both toe nails on my big toes jamming them into this hard-packed sand. When digging my foot initially gave way in the soft sand as expected, and then suddenly hit the hard unyielding "concrete" below.

I heard a loud *pop* and felt the muscle give way catastrophically. It seems all of the tension/strain sensors in the muscle realize at the same time something is terribly wrong, and every muscle fiber in the entire calf relaxes instantly. After waiting for the pain spike to subside I hobbled off the court with my arm around a friend's back, got in my car and went home.

Once home I immediately took 6 200mg Advil tables, took a shower to get the sand and sweat off of me, then laid down on the couch, elevated the leg and iced it with frozen peas. After about 6 hours I found my ACE bandage so I could add Compression to the R.I.C.E protocol. (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation). Before going to sleep I took 3 more Advil and two Aleve tablets so I would have something to suppress the swelling all night long. Based on many years of experience with my bad back, taking 6-8 Advil (ibuprofen) ASAP is critical - more so than ice or compression. For my back injuries the rehab time is cut from 3-4 weeks to 3-4 days.

After 3 days the blood from the torn calf begins to reach the surface of the skin and turn it red.

As you can see, at about 40 hours it was swollen to twice it's normal size, in spite of Advil, and R.I.C.E

The blood from the tear continues to migrate to the surface of the skin, and after 5 days it was fully bruised. It looked like this, more or less, for 4-5 days. In the mornings my urine would be very dark from removing the waste products at night when getting full rest. You can see the ACE bandage affects the blood's migration path.

After 14 days the tear had stopped bleeding and most of it had been absorbed by the surrounding tissues leaving it with a definite yellow hue but just a few remaining red splotches.

At about 20 days there was just a small amount of bruising along the Achilles tendon and just below the ankle joint on the anterior side.

At about 4 weeks there was no discoloration left of any kind anywhere, though when folding my leg under me the calf still feels swollen, with a definite ridge in the muscle running across the tear zone. I hope this is mostly scar tissue that will eventually disappear.

Based on the research I found taking a Google safari, my calf tear was a most severe Level-III, but a bit on the mild side of that. The expected time to rehab a Level-III is 2-3 months, and I went riding tonight after just over 5 weeks, so I think I did a pretty good job managing this wound. I only had one small re-injury pushing off taking a giant step up over some mud to get out of the way of a car, but otherwise have been able to avoid any re-injury to date.

I will say the fatigue was staggering the first 2-3 weeks. In fact, the first 2 weeks I was sleeping 12-18 hours a day. I also drank a lot of Welch's red grape juice for the vitamin C, a lot of Florida's Best OJ with calcium, ate a lot of Dannon yogurt, and almost 5 lbs of almonds. I'm still not sure what's in the almonds, but a lot of magnesium for sure. I was also taking a calcium, magnesium, zink supplement several times a day. Protein was unexpectedly something I didn't crave, although I ate a dozen or so eggs and drank a lot of milk just to be sure. Looking back, I think it was minerals more than anything my body was craving.

Initially the torn muscle fiber is replaced by collagen, which uses a lot of vitamin C. This holds the wound together more or less until the healing process is complete. At the point where the muscle started to reincorporate, I had the weirdest sensations like someone was loop-stitching each muscle fiber together, cinching the two ends back together one by one until the muscle was reattached to itself. (muscle fibers are very long and run the entire length of the muscle) I would wake up in the morning and have this tweaky sensation until I got up and started walking on it. Rest seemed to invoke this healing process, and use stop it, so I tried to rest it.

I went riding tonight and had trouble retraining my leg to fully extend after limping for 5 weeks. When my foot got near the bottom of the pedal stroke my calf and leg would start to pop back up to avoid rolling forward past the balls of my feet onto my toes. This isn't possible on a bicycle, as you can't put pressure forward of the balls of your feet where they rest on the pedals.

Within a couple of miles though I shifted into a higher gear and mashed a little on a hill to keep the leg from "kicking back". That strategy worked quite well. I MAY also have solved a persistent problem with my right knee sticking out as my foot now seems to want to point in, instead of out. That would be a very welcome change!

Best of all, my speed didn't suffer much at all. I completed the short 14 mile route within 2 minutes of my average time. Obviously I was hammering pretty hard by the time I got on the back half of the ride. I'm a lot more tired than I should be, but all in all, I don't seem to have lost much leg strength. I will need some time to get my cardio back and get toughened up again for long rides, but that will just mean good rest after riding and pushing myself to get out of the door and get some miles in.

I'm back! :D

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Beauty - A Man's' Perspective

I was making coffee, heard the front gate clang shut and listened as the lightest of footsteps glided up the stairs I share with my next door neighbor. He's a wanna-B rock star, and actually has some prospects. (the band is called "Bidwell") When others go up the stairs, it's with heavy "clump, clump, clumps", so I was intrigued who this might be.

Moments later the same light footsteps slipped down the stairs and I watched as a beautiful, fit woman in gym clothes slipped through the gate, into her car, and drove away. Her every movement was a symphony of motion. A true thing of beauty and grace. I believe she had a pretty face, but I can't say for sure. I was transfixed by the grace of her whole body, the way she moved, a confident vitality she possessed that seemed barely tamed. A woman for a man in his prime, able to be his companion, his equal in every way. Able to bear up under life's struggles, bear children, and be a supportive wife, mother, daughter.

Finished with making my morning cup of Vienna Roast, I opened my laptop to catch up with the day. A little good stock news had me in a good mood when I spied still another brewing story about the fashion industry.

I had the most intense emotional reaction reading this story, and thinking about it, I remembered why. I used to date a woman who was anorexic, and while I learned a lot about women's body image issues, it was a frustrating, and ultimately, heartbreaking experience.

You choose. Which is the more attractive woman?

I had met this woman at work, a temp filling in for a neighboring department's vacationing secretary. She was always very well dressed, and seemed always to be at the drinking fountain or copy machine when I was. (she admitted later she was kind of stalking me in this regard) She then showed up at the apartment gym where I worked out and I found myself inviting her to lunch.

One thing led to another, as I was newly divorced /=) and on the prowl. One night, after a wonderful night out on the town I lit a fire, cracked open a bottle of wine and took her on a soft, thick rug on the bedroom floor. I tried to ignore how gaunt she looked, even in the flickering firelight, and the sharp and bony feel of her body under me. I began to have the oddest sense that I might actually snap her spine in half if I weren't careful, so I was gentle with her until the very end.

Rolling her over on top of me (like a feather as it were) I was shocked at the complete absence of anything resembling a belly. Her ribs were like a rack her skin clung to like a limp rag. Her waist narrowed gauntly just above her protruding hip bones, and, perhaps due somewhat to my intoxication, I suddenly had the disgusting impression I was making love to an alien. I was reviled, and excused myself to use the bathroom.

When I returned she was rubbing her spine, her hand stained with blood. I had rubbed her skin raw between her lower back and the very thick "bearskin" rug. I was horrified. How was that possible when I had been so gentle with her? Applying some Neosporin I resolved to break up with her. The thought of being with her again became more and more repugnant over the next few days, and I ended it with her shortly after that.

The tragedy was we were pretty good together, but I knew her problem well by then, and knew she had fought the anorexic battle for many years, and loving me was not motivation enough to become what she subjectively saw as fat. This is one of the more insidious aspects of anorexia, that it changes your view of what "normal" is. Strangely, it did not affect her impression of men's bodies, as I was 5'9" and 165 lbs at the time. (I won an amateur body building contest around this time IIRC)

My goal in writing this post is to go beyond the timid admonishments of the popular media in saying that super-skinny models are not normal and are not healthy. I want to use the 'U" word, and say loud and clear that anorexia is UGLY.

Anorexia will destroy many relationships, your health, and your happiness. By contrast, health and vitality are always attractive and beautiful, in both men and women, and provide the foundation for emotional and physical stability through the many ups and downs life hands us all on our journeys. Anyone who is healthy is instantly more attractive, and this has always been so.

PS: It appears the light-footed beauty that glides up stairs is Brianna Bowie, an Olympic level gymnast winning several Canadian titles before turning to dance and jazz vocals.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Threshold Power

I headed out the door mid-afternoon yesterday for a fast ride down to Discovery Park with the goal of timing my ride while on the American River Parkway Trail - excluding the segment of the ride on the hills getting to and from it. Unfortunately, I forgot to hit the lap button on the Garmin when I got to William Pond, but I did get a nice reading on this flat stretch coming back from Discovery from CSUS to William Pond.

The trace is shown above. I am really liking my results on this section of ride as everything is completely locked in. My average HR is 153 - very close to my max here of 156, and as you can see, I was pretty much glued to 153 this whole segment. The speed is also very consistent, as is my rather slow cadence.

The slow cadence was intentional, as I haven't ridden at a low cadence in about a year, and wanted to see how it affected my breathing, power, speed, and fatigue. I'll say for the record, this ride HURT. Pushing tall gears does save some cardio, but wow does it ever create muscle fatigue. Of course, the blistering pace did it's fair share of damage too.

The entire ride was done solo - IE: zero drafting time. The winds seemed a little unfavorable too. I must have passed a dozen riders on this stretch, and nobody even tried to jump on my wheel. It's a pretty good indicator of how challenging the speed was with the prevailing winds. I'm going to keep at this ride, perhaps once a week, and see what happens. My legs are still sore, 24 hours later.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Night Moves

I ride with two bike clubs here in river city, and one is more about fun than hammering, so when they offered a night ride I jumped at the opportunity. I find the discipline to hammer solo easy, but I do like having an opportunity to have fun thrown my way.

I Velcro-ed an LED flashlight to my aerobars, put my red flashing light in it's mount on my seat post, stuck a red LED ribbon onto the back of my (new) red helmet, and headed out the door sans my Garmin. It's a fun ride, so no point in fretting stats. The ride was advertised as being a slo-poke ride for newbies and the adventurous at night.

I was a bit late getting out the door, grabbing a waterbottle at the last moment, but made quick work of the 5~6 mile transition to Jamba Juice off Sunrise and Gold Country. There were about 20 riders there, and everyone had a smile and a fun attitude as our ride leader Jeffrey went through his talking points - the important one being to stop after the William Pond Pk bridge and turn right, so as NOT to continue on the bike trail all the way to downtown Sacramento some 15 miles downstream on the American River.

We had a strong Delta Breeze, and the air was cool, but electric under a full moon. It was a simple course. We were headed for an upscale coffee shoppe 10 miles away - Bella Bru. I've begun rides just outside their doors many times, but never knew they had a beautiful shoppe with dark veined marble floors and counters with chocolates, coffee and fruit tarts to die for. Fortunately for us, they also had bike friendly parking and long tables to accommodate large groups.

After admitting it was her first ride on the bike trail, I "adpoted" one of the new riders - Christine. Steven King references kept running through my head as the sun set and a full moon rose to take its place. Not to fear, she sat down next to me at Bella Bru where the conversation was interesting and never touched on old cars with sinister intentions.

After a half hour of talking around the table we all headed back outside to suit up for the return leg home. It was fully dark by then, and all the lights came out and on until we collectively resembled a long, brightly colored dragon. Christine found a rider with a light to lend with dead batteries, and another rider with spare batteries. It worked quite well and I stuck close to her once we got back on the bike trail and the lights faded until only the full moon shone to light our way. (The light I borrowed for the ride wouldn't fit my handlebars)

Like most experienced riders, I tend to think of the American River Parkway Trail as flat, but it isn't flat at all. Unlike road beds, which are graded to remove all the small undulations before the paving begins, the bike trail embellishes these small grade changes. Riding a mountain bike with lots of knobs and bars to suck at the wind, we were going pretty slow up those small hills. It was a reminder to me how easy it is to overlook these watt-burning features when planning rides.

Near the middle of the ride we found ourselves riding alone, and I was struck by how different everything looks in the dark. The familiar was hard to even recognize without glancing around and getting my bearings. Somehow a small group of riders got separated at the back, but our ride leaders were out in force riding back to find them. I have to say, Fred's HID headlamp mounted on his helmet turned night into day. It was brighter than all of our lights put together. They're expensive, but necessary on the night mtn bike rides he often leads.

We stopped just before the Sunrise bridge, and waited for everyone to catch up. I spent a lot of time talking to newbies about shifting, gearing, tires and aerobars. Nobody seemed in any particular hurry to get back and end the ride. At some point I noticed how perfect and caressing the breeze was - about 70% humidity, about 68 degrees, and ~ 5-10 mph, it reminded me of the breeze at sunset in the Florida Keys. Lying in a hammock it seems to caress you.

The brilliant lights of our ride leaders, and their rescued lost, foretold a successful regrouping. After a few minutes of rest for the weary, we set a leisurely pace for Jamba Juice and rode together in a nicely spaced group. Once back we took another group photo, some candid shots, and said our good-byes. I gave Christine a hug, shook hands good-bye with Jeffrey and Fred, clipped in, and pushed off.

I headed home solo amazed at how many things there were moving around me as I rode cautiously through the night. Something big and black, perhaps a dog, coyotte, mtn lion or small deer (they were everywhere) flashed across my path on a lonely stretch of road. I vowed to get a better light. Arriving home just after 10:00 I was grinning ear to ear.

The next morning I awoke surprised I was a little sore. It was only then I remembered bridging up from the front of the pack to one of the stronger riders who wanted to hammer. I did the ride with only a bottle of water, as there was plenty of fuel at each end and at the pace there was more than enough glycogen on tap for the 30-some miles.

All in all it was a really fun ride. Hammering is great fun, but from time to time it's so refreshing to just go have fun, reconnect with the joy of our sport, and the great opportunities to ride with others and enjoy their company.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009


A delicious Karen's creation. Reason enough to ride.

Our club, the HammerinWheels group, has a "family reunion" every-other month at Karen's bakery in Folsom. It's always on a Saturday, and I can ride there from my front door, so no need to pack the car and change clothes. It's a chance for all the members of the sub-groups that always seem to develop to get together, share ideas, made suggestions, and just catch up with each other's lives.

I was really looking forward to this particular one because my friend Lourdes was the ride organizer and because we sort of got into a competition with our sister mtn biking group to see how many we could get to show up. I think they had 75 riders at their last pizza social, so we got our butts kicked with "only" 37, but we made it a theme ride in honor of Michael Jackson's Birthday, so we got the win for originality.

The anticipation kind of got the best of me on Friday night, so at the last minute I went out the door for a fast sunset ride down the bike trail to the Guy West Bridge at CSUS. I hadn't really been feeling well the last 3-4 weeks - not awful, but I just didn't have much energy, so I took it kind of easy the first few miles. Once on the trail I decided to continue with my weak-point training and push some tall gears.

I NEVER push tall gears, as spinning is the magic elixir that keeps muscle fatigue at bay. Exercise physiologists have been telling cyclists for decades that the optimal cadence for breathing efficiency is 60 - and cyclists have been telling them to go screw themselves every single day since. You can get your wind back in 30 seconds, when your legs are gone, you're done. In short, cardio efficiency is a distant third to muscular endurance and nutrition. The propeller heads still don't get it from what I've read. Pro riders, in particular, always self-select for a cadence between 90 and 100 to maximize muscular endurance.

So why push tall gears? The same reason I focused on threshold power, speed, and max HR last month, because I never do. It's important to periodically go back and revisit weak areas, that because of injury or training requirements, get neglected. I still want a bigger triangle. Also, I had a hill ride coming up on Sunday, so some strength training was well-targeted.

There is some climbing on the way home from William B Pond park, so I used my Garmin's Lap facility to record my time while actually on the bike trail, and got a respectable 19.1 mph. I don't think it was my fastest ever ride on that stretch, but riding solo it was still a good average speed while pushing tall gears.

Warren and Jeffery doing the MJ tribute on his birthday. Cool cake Lourdes!

I got up early and went out the door without my Garmin for Saturday's ride. This was a ride about friends and relationships, so I didn't even want to tempt myself to ride with my head "inside the cockpit" by bringing my telemetry along. Instead, I spent my time riding up to Karen's moving up and down the line of riders so I could catch up with friends, say hi and have a few laughs.

Lourdes and Mica, my ride leaders for Saturday & Sunday's outings.

Our group was one of the earliest to arrive, and the riders continued to trickle in for 45 minutes. As they did I was surprised by how many strange faces there were around me. It's a sure sign of a sucessful club, but I sure had to hussle to meet all the newbies, and frankly, it just wasn't possible to meet them all. I also got to catch up with old friends.

"Old" is now a little more than a year IIRC. My how time flies. It is a bit weird though when you realize you're an "old timer" and a lot of the new people don't even know who you are.

Me, Kip and Mica enjoying a beautiful morning and the warmth of friends

Sunday I had to get up really early because I don't have a garage and had to pack the bike and bling in the car after breakfast and hygeine. I got there a bit early and had time to recycle some coffee before parking, unpacking and suiting up. It was a sea of strangers, and they were all in "The Zoo" - animals who ride animal miles 6 days a week. The ride was a steep hill climbing ride that Bikely underestimated by almost a thousand feet, so I knew I was in for a very tough ride.

Fortunately, it was led by one of our newer members who has just enough of a laid-back attitude that he kept things in the sane zone. 3,700+ feet in 33 miles (Garmin 305 barometric stats) is a tough ride, but this one also had a long super-steep near the end of the ride, so I was a bit anxious after a long layoff from climbing after Mt Hamilton. We also had some very strong women riding, and while I do hate to get 'chicked', I think it keeps the testosterone levels out of the red zone having a balanced group of riders.

C32: Tour de Folsom with MORE EDH Kickers

We headed out on familiar streets, and the climbing started almost at once. Not the huge stuff, but lots of 3-6% stuff. As usuall I got passed on most of the uphills and passed riders pedaling hard coasting on the downhills. After a hilly, nicely shaded jaunt through a residential neighborhood we headed up a long hill and I got passed by rider after rider. I might have even gotten chicked, but since I'm telling the story.... :D We lost 2 of our 18 riders at that point. At the pace we were riding they were overwhelmed.

We regrouped at the top of the hill and headed for Green Valley. The same road that takes me to Rescue all the time. We continued climbing well past the turn-off for Rescue at Deer Valley and I was getting dehydrated. I found myself at the end of a long line of riders, and I HATE it when that happens, but I still stopped, as promised, at a school to dilute my Gatorade. I had 3 bottles and they were all too strong, so I mixed and watered until they were all about half strength, while drinking about a half gallon to rehydrate. I was trying a new 3-bottle system, and got bit straying from my usual hydration protocol. I did it to save weight, and because the route was relatively short.

When I rolled back out to Green Valley, there wasn't a rider in sight, but I knew the route so shifted through my gears and rode at a pace that kept me just under my lactate threshold. They left a rider back for me at the turn onto Bass Lake Rd, and a hundred yards later I saw the whole group waiting. Uuuugh. Not a great feeling. My spirits lifted when I learned they were waiting for the ride leader to fix a flat - for the 2nd time - and not me. I seems he put on a previously flatted and still unfixed tube on the first attempt. I took another drink of water and then helped out by rolling up his old tube and putting it back in it's box.

We rolled out onto Bass Lake Rd and I heard a flic, flic, flic from my back wheel. I pulled off into the gravel shoulder and found what looked like a small leaf stuck to my tire with some gum. I wiped it off and hurried to catch up with the group again. We went over a series of rollers and then started downhill. Wheeee, I was riding my brakes or passing riders, it was my kind of terrain!

We turned onto Serreno Parkway and the downhill started in earnest. I finally gave up trying to stay in formation and moved into the center of 2 lanes. The only traffic was that of golfers coming home from the country club nearby, and it just wasn't safe to have so many riders bunched up at high speeds riding on a 3 ft strip of bike lane. As anticipated, as I coasted past rider after rider in a beautiful aerobar tuck the lane behind me filled with riders - a much safer arrangement.

After a short transition of 3-4% we headed down a shallow grade on El Dorado Hills Blvd to the base of "The Beast" - a climb up Wilson, Ridgeline and Powers roads to the top of the El Dorado Hills ridge. Again I ground up the 10-13% grade staying within my lactate threshold. This time though, a fair number of riders were behind me for the whole climb. I thought of my blogspot friend Rachel Richards and knew she was in the middle of her IM Canada at that very moment. I pushed a bit harder and hung tough at the top when a couple of riders that had been breathing down my neck faded. I got to the meetup point where we waited for the stragglers. I was smiling. I had finished in the middle of the pack on by far the toughest climb of the ride. I'm a strong finisher - in part because I stay within my limits when I ride.

After a short transition across the length of the ridge, we waited, and waited, and waited for the last of the riders to show up. I decided to check my brakes and tires one more time before heading down Beatty Dr. Speeds close to 60 mph are possible as it is super steep - over 20% in places - and a crash at that speed can be fatal. My back tire was almost flat, so I borrowed a large frame pump, aired up the tire, asked the ride leader if it was OK to go ahead so I could go slow, and roasted my brakes to stay under 35.

At the bottom of the grade I pulled over to wait. Not a scrap of shade in sight, and the wait lasted for > 15 minutes. The stragglers had flatted within a few yards of each other, and after one sheared a valve stem off her tube, things got ugly. Fortunely, the ride leader was patient and thorough and sent 2 riders back to find them. One of them still had an intact tube, so eventually all were able to reform on me. I had used the time to find the culpruit for my own slow leak - a very stout thorn that had penetrated right at the edge of the protection strip I put in last month. It was really jammed in there and I decide to leave it in and hope for the best.

We all headed up Sophia Parkway for the top of Iron Pt Rd, once again shuffling positons as the grade slowly ramped up from flat to 7%. We were headed into a strong wind, but more of a concern for me was my ever-flattening rear tire. I could really feel the drag, and hated it as rider after rider passed me - again. I wasn't the last to regroup at the top of the hill, but the flat definately hurt me. I aired it up again, this time to nearly full pressure as we were headed down Iron Pt's 10% grade and I wanted a full tire under me.

Half way down Iron Pt the light changed, and I hit the brakes doing about 40. The rubber that had melted onto the rim from braking while descending Beatty Dr locked the rear wheel when it hit the brake pads and the back of the bike started to skid. I got off the brake immediately, but those milliseconds of crisis management had distracted me from the maximum effort braking I'd have needed to stop in time, and I found myself running a red light at better than 20 mph. Fortunately the only driver on our side of the intersection figured out I was in trouble and never took his foot off the brake. It was a scary and embarrassing moment, and set a bad example for the group, but I had no other option.

Less than a minute later there was a right turn which I prayed I could get through. I was going about 10 mph and managed to make the turn, but going over a set of railroad tracks a block later I could feel the back tire was completely flat. I nursed it along for another half mile and then threw in the towel and stopped to fix it. One of the new riders, Burt, stopped and kept me company while I did my flat fix thing. I've gone through 14 tubes now in 2 months, so it's a well practiced, if unwelcome chore.

Burt was from the north SF Bay area, and we struck up a really nice conversation about my old stomping grounds while I did my chore. He's going riding with Levi Leipheimer next week up in Santa Rosa, and that got us talking about the TDF, Lance Armstrong, Leipheimer's absence's likely impact on the outcome, and Contador's poor sportsmanship and tactical blunders. We said our goodbyes at the parking lot after breaking down and loading up, and I felt I'd made a new friend.

Three rides in three days is a first for me. I don't usually push my recovery luck that far, but again, weak-point training. It's good to know I can do it, because sometimes when training the weather or life gets in the way, and it's nice to know there's an out there if it's really needed. Time for a nap now. It all kind of hit me today. I'm tired, but it's been a really wonderful weekend of riding.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Coiling Your Spring

Coil, but don't break your spring

I have been hammering on this point with some of my friends to the point they don't want to hear it anymore, but this article says it so well I just couldn't resist reblogging it.

Sometimes, the hardest thing to do is nothing, because even though we all want to shape our destiny by our actions, you don't get stronger from training. You get stronger from the adaptations your body makes when you AREN'T training. Think of training as pushing down on, or coiling a spring. Unless the spring is broken, when you stop pushing it will spring back. No pushing, no springing back. On the other hand, if you keep pushing and pushing and pushing, eventually you're going to break your spring and no pushing back at all then.

A little note on rest and adaptation. Long ago in the land of proto hominems (the much sought after missing links) there were likely creatures whose adaptation to specific stresses was not very specific. They ran a lot for a few weeks to stay ahead of fires, saber-tooth tigers, and stampeding woolly mammoths and not only did their fast twitch muscles, and cardio respond by getting stronger, but their arms got bigger, they packed on 10 pounds of lean muscle on their chests, their slow-twitch muscle developed more endurance and they grew a foot taller. They also became extinct.

Why? Because adaptations are expensive. They require a lot of resources. Species that adapted to threats more specifically met those specific threats with far fewer resources than our mythical generalists, so in a world of scarce resources, they prevailed. Don't hate your body for requiring you to constantly be juggling and rotating applied stresses you present to it. It's why you're here and not pushing up some prehistoric daisies. Besides, can you even IMAGINE your grocery bill and sleep requirements if you had such genes?

This period of magic, targeted rejuvenation is known as REST. The more your birthday cake resembles a forest fire, the more of it you'll need to keep up with the whipper-snapper de 'jour. So go ahead and hammer, but please do remember to heal thyself.

Try it, you'll like it!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Ode to New Zealand Fishermen

I scored some beautiful New Zealand orange roughy at Bel Aire the other night, and have been trying to find the perfect recipe ever since. It cooled down tonight so I decided to bake it on a bed of Italian bread crumbs sitting on a little walnut and almond oil.

The roughy has a very clean, delicate flavor, so I diluted the bread crumbs with some wheat germ for its light nutty taste, and added a bit of garlic and parsley. If I can get more roughy tomorrow, I will bake this again, but use a lot more wheat germ to keep the flavors very light. The fish is just amazing.

Not since ordering Wolfgang Puck's northern pike have I tasted anything like this. The runner up recipe was lemon (or lime), ginger and white wine. Lemon with grated orange zest would be about perfect, especially cooked in smoking hot almond and hazelnut oil.

Hey, save some for me!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

How to change a flat tire in < 5 minutes

I did a fair piece of talking here, and still the video time is ~ 2:30, so especially for the front tire, you can be done with this chore and back to your workout in < 300 seconds!

If you're doing this stuff at home, change out of that Brooks Brothers suit and slip into something expendable, like the polka dotted T-shirt your mother-in-law bought you, or you'll be buying chocolates and flowers until the day you die - and you'll now have no excuse, cause you've been schooled. :D

The rear wheel will take a bit longer, but if you shift down onto your small chainring in front, and onto your 2nd or 3rd smallest cog in back, the R&R on the back wheel doesn't take but a few seconds more. Be sure to bring some latex gloves in your kit to keep drive train grease off your hands, handlebars, clothes, and generally, all of creation.

Oh, be very sure there is no part of the inner tube between the rim and either bead of the tire before you put air in it. If in doubt, air up about half way, let the air back out, and then air up fully.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Post-ride Recovery

I have a new favorite post-ride recovery meal - Gatorade!

I often get home with extra Gatorade, mixed from my concentrate bottle and my last hydration stop/s. It usually ends up going to waste. After pouring still another 30oz or so down the drain last month I occurred to me that Gatorade has everything needed for a great post-ride recovery "meal"
  1. It's already made, so can be consumed immediately
  2. It's sugars are fast carbs, high on the glycemic index
  3. It has lots of fluids to remedy dehydration ASAP
  4. It has lots of electrolytes to replenish some of what is lost
  5. It's free, since I'm just going to end up pouring it down the drain anyway
  6. It's great to wash down some Advil with, and prompts me to do so (I tend to forget)
  7. It gets me going in the liquid direction, with follow-on fruit juices and milk
I have found that this one, simple change has virtually eliminated my issues with Big-D. Sometimes the solutions we need are ready at hand if our minds are open enough to accept them.